National Pipe And Plastic:Destruction of a Neighborhood

by Gary King

National Pipe and Plastic is a major manufacturer of PVC pipe. The business is located on Old Vestal Road and Commerce Road in the Town of Vestal. The location is in an industrial/commercial area. There are no residential properties bordering directly on the National Pipe site. They have a 24 hour, 7 days a week operation. The manufacture of plastic pipe is noisy, smelly and dirty. Residential neighbors up the hill to the East of their site have complained about the noise and smell. The site has several silos for storage of PVC material and acres of stored plastic pipe on skids over 12 feet high. There is constant truck traffic and yard work.

West Endicott, Town of Union, is a quiet clean community. There is no large industry but there is an old abandoned E.J. factory that is currently zoned multi-housing. At issue is a narrow strip of land west of the factory. Maple Street runs along the North boundary and immediately South across the railroad tracks is Dickson Street. West of the industrial zone is a sports field. Just across the street from the E.J. factory, on Maple Street, is a children’s park. The street, past the park, would probably be heavily used by employees to get to work and by some truck traffic.

National Pipe wants to move to West Endicott. Here is a little history on how this developed: As reported in the Binghamton Press on March 16, 2002, National Pipe bought the property for expansion in Union for $3.65 million. They received development incentives: A $500,000 grant from Empire State Development Corp. to help buy machinery, a $100,000 grant from the Town of Union’s Local Development Group and a 10 year payment in lieu of taxes agreement through the Broome County Industrial Development Group. This essentially froze tax payments at the 2002 level for 10 years. Empire Zone benefits included wage and tax credits, sales tax exemptions and utility discounts. May 16, 2002 was the official purchase date and on May 17 they transferred the title to Broome County IDA for $1.00. I wonder if National Pipe would have bothered with this purchase without government involvement using tax payer money?

As reported in a website, PlasticsNet, October 1, 2003, National Pipe’s expansion plans were put on hold for about a year and a half, if not indefinitely. They put the property up for sale for $3.95 million. The article quotes Richard D’Attilo, executive director of Broome County IDA as saying, “It doesn’t sound like a company that’s planning to move. Failure to proceed with the project as planned means the company would lose the tax benefits established as part of its agreement with the county.” Joseph Moody, Union Economic Development Director, was reported as saying, “It would not receive the $100,000 development incentive offered by Union’s LDG.” Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Empire State Development said they would not receive the $500,000 capital grant offered by the ESD. He is quoted as saying, “We have made numerous attempts to work with the company, with little success.”

Although National Pipe has done nothing to develop the site in over 10 years, I was told by an employee for Broome County IDA, on Wednesday, August 16, 2012, that the title was transferred back to National Pipe a few weeks ago which probably indicates they received the tax breaks for 10 years. In a note to me from Tom Libous dated 8/11/2012, he stated that the $500,000 state grant was fully disbursed in 2009.

The National Pipe move to Union requires variances on the ordinances designed for our protection. The requirements call for a principal building no higher than 65 feet. They want to increase that to 78 feet. There is a restriction on accessory use or structure limited to 25 feet. They want 12 silos installed with half of them extending 60 feet. It was explained by the Town of Union that height restrictions are to keep people from building structures that tower over existing smaller properties. The nearby properties are two story residences. They also want the offset restrictions lowered from the railroad tracks so they can put the silos closer to the tracks. The offset is a safety concern.

From what we know of National Pipe we thought it would be classified heavy industry. This area was zoned light industry until last year when it was changed to just “industry” in a consolidation effort with Endicott and Johnson City. The Town of Union informed us that to be classified “heavy” they have to have a manufacturing process that vibrates the ground. Size does not matter so I assume EJ and IBM are also light industry. We were told that industries, like foundries and stone crushing, were removed from the permitted industry list and I pointed out that Plastics Modeling was also absent. We were told that Plastics Modeling now comes under General Manufacturing. The Zoning District Purposes state that “the district shall employ techniques to minimize negative impacts (including traffic, parking, glare, noise, etc.) on adjacent nonindustrial uses, especially established residential districts.” Add smell, dust, chemical exposure and unsightliness to the list and we have National Pipe. Of course the word “minimize” leaves a lot open to interpretation along with most of the rest of the zoning legislation.

Bottom line, this is a residential area and a business like National Pipe does not belong here. They are currently located in an industrial area and if they move, it should be to an industrial park. They say they will move out of state if they can’t come to Union but a Vestal official told me that National Pipe has been saying that to the Town of Vestal for years to get tax breaks. We have heard from some Vestal residents that they have complained about traffic, noise and smell for a long time but nothing changes. That is not a good neighbor. Adding silos, increasing the size of the buildings and filling acres of land with stored plastic pipe will not be a pretty site. Lights, noise, dust and truck traffic 50 yards from bedroom windows will mean the people will have to keep their windows closed and shades drawn. We have had exposure to ShopVac and we encountered a black sticky residue the three years they were here. National Pipe has stated that they will keep their offices in Vestal for a while. I am guessing they are looking at the old EJ factory site and may someday build there. Never ending expansion until West Endicott no longer exists. Some realtors have already stated they expect the home values to go down if National Pipe comes to this area. There goes the neighborhood!

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